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Miss Julie review at Theatre Royal Bath

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One of the themes of the Peter Hall Company 2006 season in Bath is the dangers of sexual frustration, and Frank McGuinness’s raw new version of Strindberg’s once notorious classic fits perfectly into the pattern. McGuinness has moved the scene from Sweden to nineteenth century Ireland during the Anglo-Irish ascendancy, discovering a viable new slant to the claustrophobic atmosphere, the exploration of love and lust across the class barrier, and the changing roles of exploiter and victim. There is even a synergy with Ireland in the brooding presence, off stage, of Julie’s father as an absentee landlord.

Miss Julie, the doomed daughter of the aristocratic owner, at first seems to be a coquette out to tease and taunt her physically powerful and cunning servant Jean. But there are several role reversals, as well as a dramatically explicit sexual encounter set to Mick Sands’ pounding Irish fiddle score, before Strindberg’s ambiguous ending.

Andrea Riseborough, only a year out of RADA, gives a strong and at times moving reading of Miss Julie, cleverly suggesting but never over-emphasising her disturbed state of mind, while Richard Dormer brings out all of Jean’s deep ambition, but also his insecurity, as he bids to lift himself above his fellow servants by ruthlessly using his mistress to climb the social ladder. Pauline Turner has a necessary calming influence as Jean’s fellow servant and would-be fianc?e Kristin, while director Rachel O’Riordan handles McGuinness’s switch of the lusty action to his native Ireland with great surety.

Production Information

Theatre Royal Bath, June 26-August 12

August Strindberg in a new version by Frank McGuinness
Rachel O’Riordan
The Peter Hall Company
Andrea Riseborough, Richard Dormer, Pauline Turner
Running Time
1hr 30mins

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